Imam Muhammad al-Asi contends that the characteristics of Bani Israel as outlined extensively in the Qur’an, are to be found in the Muslim mind, psyche and collective action. Understanding this is key to liberating not just the Holy Land but for the establishment of justice for all peoples, but to liberating the minds of all those struggling for freedom and justice, particularly Muslims.
This piece speaks specifically to Muslims in certain sections. If you don’t share the Islamic world view or the Islamic faith, it is alright. You can get a little insight into the internal affairs of the Muslims. I start with a fairly uncontentious assertion: that among the two billion Muslims in the world, is the belief that Zionist Israel must and is coming to an end. No two Muslims would disagree on that. There has been in the past ten or twenty years a crust: a very thin layer of politicians, who are trying to turn Muslim thinking on this. Just as you have Zionist Jews and Zionist Christians, we are now beginning to have, just there at the upper crust of governments, Zionist Muslims. Take them out of the equation. The two billion Muslims in the world consider Zionist Israel thus: racist Israel; exclusivist Israel; oppressive Israel; colonising Israel; expansionist Israel. They consider it to be an enemy.
The question that has been raised since 1948 remains the same: how do you undo that enemy? There were rushes to war – in 1948 to begin with then 1956, 1967, 1973. These were the governmental officials in Arabic speaking countries that went to war with the Zionist Israeli military establishment. For all practical purposes, they lost all those wars. Regarding the 1973 war, they tried to say that they did not lose it. In effect: “You may have not scored a resounding victory, but we did not lose.” But the fact of the matter is that they did lose.
So why did they lose? They have a combined armed force which miniaturised the Israeli one. As far as technology is concerned, Israel has the edge in military technology but in every other sense they had military superiority and yet still they lost. If I were to answer that as a material person as opposed to a moral person I would say because the combined armed forces that went to war against the Israelis did not have advanced weaponry. They were fighting with obsolete fighter jets, tanks, artillery, etc. – second and third generation weaponry. Meanwhile, the Israelis were fighting with state-of-the-art military technology. But if I was a moral person trying to answer the question of why did those who were against Israel lose, well what I have to say will strike you as odd.[44:38]. It is because those who fought against Israel were Israelis themselves. I know this strikes one as odd: how can this be said let alone make sense: they were / are not Israelis; they don’t have citizenship; they are not Jews; they are not Zionists. How can one say that they are Israelis?
I say that they are Israelis, understanding the character, the behaviour of people, not their rituals or their legalistic context or things like that. But who are they in essence? The Arabs who fought against the Israelis are Israelis in the understanding of the verses of the Qur’an about Israelis – the Bani Israiil.
So what are some of the verses in the Quran that discloses an Israeli character? One of the verses of the Quran says:
مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا ۚ
(Surah Al- Jumu’ah, ayah 5)
That means, ‘the similitude/ the analogy of those who were responsible for the Tawrah, or who were laden with the responsibilities of Tawrah, are equivalent to a donkey that is carrying books.’ This is in reference to the Israeli character. Allah had/s given them the responsibility of the Torah, and they side-lined all of those responsibilities. They kept to, not the substance of the Torah, but the appearance of the Tawrah. The Tawrah has become a burden to them, and they want to find a way out of carrying the heavy load of the Tawrah.
Isn’t this what has happened to those in our time who say that they are Muslims? Don’t they have Islamic responsibilities to carry? But they’re not carrying those responsibilities. That’s an Israeli attitude. You can give yourself an Islamic name. You can dress as an Islamic person. You can have all the imagery of a Muslim. But in yourself, in your heart you are not.
Allah says to the Israelis,
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِي أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ
(Surah Baqarah, ayah 40)
Allah says to the Israelis – Israelis as a behaviour, not Israelis as a race – don’t let the racist understanding of words and things and developments and history penetrate your mind – Allah says to them,
‘Honour your pledge with me, and I will honour my pledge with you and stand in awe of Me’.
They didn’t honour their pledge with Allah. He didn’t honour their pledge with them. And they didn’t stand in awe of Him, awe meaning He wasn’t their primary source of fear. Isn’t this what is happening to the Muslims?
أَتَأۡمُرُونَ ٱلنَّاسَ بِٱلۡبِرِّ وَتَنسَوۡنَ أَنفُسَكُمۡ وَأَنتُمۡ تَتۡلُونَ ٱلۡكِتَٰبَۚ أَفَلَا تَعۡقِلُونَ
(Surah Baqarah, ayah 44)
You who have this attitude, whether it is on the Israeli side or on the Muslim side, or for that matter, the Christian side: are you demanding basic truths? Are you demanding freedom from all other people, and you are excluding yourselves from that responsibility while you are reading the scripture that has come to you from the Almighty? Does this apply only to those who have a Jewish history? Or does it also apply to those who have a Christian history and to those who have a Muslim history?
So let’s not say we are very different from the Israelis because Israelis, they established a nation state. That’s a sanitized way of saying a racist state. The Israelis established a racist state. Wrong. the Muslims established 56 or 57 nation states and racist states because everything that goes with the exclusivity or exclusionism of nationalism and racism is an appellation of a nation state. We Muslims have 56 or 57 of those. Those who call themselves Jews, have one. I think we are more Zionist than they are.
So, are we fighting our own selves? We say that they are Israelis, and we can’t discover that we are also Israelis, and we want to fight against them? The Israelis discriminate against Palestinians. Fact. Whatever frame of mind that you have, that’s a fact. Speak to the Kurds. Kurds are Muslims, and ask them how they are treated by the nation states that they live in? They will tell you they are being treated just like the Palestinians are treated by the Israelis. So, why can we not look at the behaviour, the essence of human beings and not look skin deep? What is the colour of that person’s skin? What type of blood runs in his veins? These types of things represent the Israeli mindset that we all share.
Then we want to speak about liberating Palestine and liberating other areas of the world when we don’t have the qualifications necessary to do that. There are so many things involved here.
Addiction – An Example
We have in the Quran, nasikh and mansookh. We have verses in the Quran that override other verses, meaning the initial verses that were revealed were meant for a temporary condition out of which there is an evolution into a better condition. And so, the previous verses that related to a condition of the past are superceded by the new verses. The question is why did these verses, these initial verses that dealt with an initial issue, why did they stay in the Quran? They are still there for all of us to read and understand and apply.
To give an example, the problem of addiction is a real problem, and it is hard to get rid of addiction. There are programs, there are methodologies, there are therapies, there are so many things to try to free a person or society of addiction. This is a problem that is not a moderate problem. This problem has been with people since way back and it was a problem when the Qur’an was revealed.
But the solution to this problem was not to tell Muslims – because Muslims cannot consume any addictive substances of whatever type – that we are forbidden from that. The verse from on high was not revealed suddenly to say: you who have become Muslims, you cannot consume any addictive substance from this moment onwards. That was not the way it was dealt with. There was a gradual phasing out of addiction. Until after months and years, Islamic society in Medina was up and running and was alcohol free[i]: barrels of intoxicants were thrown away. But it took time to do that.
Understanding that, if in today’s world someone wants to become a Muslim, and the person has been drinking and smoking and has been addicted to a lot of stuff for many, many years – what do you tell them? To be a Muslim you have to stop drinking immediately, go cold turkey, in order to become a Muslim? Or you take into consideration that this is going to take time. He has to gradually free himself of these bad habits. This point takes us to another area.
In the first 13 years of the Prophet Muhammad’s life (peace and blessing be upon him), he was in Makkah, receiving revealed verses from Allah and trying to communicate and explain those meanings to the people. In those 13 years, there was no verse, there was no ayah that explained any ritual, for example As-Salah, As-Siyam, Az-Zakat, etc. None of those ayahs dealt with that. None of those ayahs dealt with any laws. So, for 13 years, we didn’t have any rituals and we didn’t have any laws. So what was the Prophet trying to explain during those 13 years?
In the end, the simple answer to that was one thing: justice. Yet today, justice is excluded from the public mind. Go to any country, listen to any ideology or political platform, and you’re lucky to hear the word justice mentioned once or twice in an election season. They will talk about so many things, but no one wants to centralise the issue of justice. The Prophet (pbuh) was not talking about any justice. Anyone can say they know justice, but whose definition of justice? Is it some philosopher? Is it some deep thinker? Is it some politician? Who is it that is going to tell me what justice means? And social justice? Who’s going to define that for me?
The Prophet was receiving verses from Allah to tell the people that justice is defined by Allah. He is the only one who has a combined divinity and authority to tell us what justice is and how to maintain justice and achieve social justice. And those who opposed him began bickering. Remember, the opposition to the Prophet from those vested in the old oppressive order was very serious. Persecution, excommunication, forcing people who accepted this divine message to leave, to go to Africa for shelter and refuge. This is the core of the revelation and the work of the Prophet (pbuh) from the beginning of his mission, but when was the last time we heard a Friday sermon or a lecture at an Islamic conference that concentrated on the issue of justice and social justice? Not often, I hazard. The reason being that if there is a focus on that, then all of these constructs of racism and classism and genderism, in effect everything holding up the oppressive systems that we live in today are going to come down collapsing because justice is being done.
Liberating the Holy Lands
In talking about Palestine as the Holy Land, we often forget that this is not the only holy land under occupation. We also have the holy lands of Makkah and Medina that are colonised. The question becomes, should we concentrate on liberating Holy Land South, the Arabian Peninsula? Or should we concentrate on liberating Holy Land North, which is the Levant?
Once again, we find the answer from Allah (Azza wa Ja’ala): it says in these first ayahs of Surah al-Isra,
فَإِذَا جَآءَ وَعۡدُ ٱلۡأٓخِرَةِ لِيَسُـُٔواْوُجُوهَكُمۡ وَلِيَدۡخُلُواْ ٱلۡمَسۡجِدَ كَمَا دَخَلُوهُ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٖ وَلِيُتَبِّرُواْ مَا عَلَوۡاْ تَتۡبِيرًا
(Surah Isra, ayah 7)
These verses tell us that the first time that Bani Israel lost their status as the number one hegemon in the world was at the hands of, in the words of the Quran “Ibaadan lanaa”, (Sura Isra’ -verse 4), subordinates, specifically belonging to Us, to divinity.
They don’t belong to a superpower. They don’t belong to a man-made philosophy. They specifically and emphatically belong to Allah – that’s how the first line, the first chapter, the first era in which Banu Israel had control over the noble world of that time, their attempts to eliminate the last four apostles or messengers of Allah.
So, the first time Banu Israel came down from their high status in the world was in the first generation of the prophet. They lost their influence in Al-Medina, in Khaybar, then in Al Quds, Jerusalem. They lost.
This is the area that escapes our attention. Was the Prophet more concerned with Bani Israel or was he more concerned with the enemies that came from his own people? He was concerned with his own people first. That’s why Makkah was liberated before Jerusalem was liberated.
So the ayah says,
فَإِذَا جَآءَ وَعۡدُ ٱلۡأٓخِرَةِ لِيَسُـُٔواْوُجُوهَكُمۡ وَلِيَدۡخُلُواْ ٱلۡمَسۡجِدَ كَمَا دَخَلُوهُ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٖ
(Surah Isra, ayah 7)
‘And they will enter, they meaning ‘Ibaadan lanaa’. The appetizer to this has been experienced by the Israeli losses to the Islamic resistance in Lebanon and the Israeli targeting of the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic in Iran.
So the question is, is there enough acumen to understand that Makkah has to be liberated in order for Jerusalem to be liberated? The second time around has to be done the same way it was done the first time around.
Now, here’s an interesting extension. After about 20 plus years of Makkan hostility towards the prophet in al-Medina, Makkah was finally liberated. What do I mean by Makkah being liberated? In the Arabic language, it is Fath ul-Makkah. It was militarily liberated. It was not psychologically liberated. And still, Makkah up until this day has not been psychologically liberated. This, in my opinion, would explain why the Prophet himself and the successors, the five legitimate successors to the Prophet, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Imam Ali, Imam Hassan remained in Al-Medina and did not go to Makkah. It is because, as I said, even though the Mushriks militarily lost in Makkah and ostensibly became Muslim, psychologically they did not become committed in the way the Prophet wanted them to become committed. They still had a grudge, or they still had traces of that animosity of 20 years of warfare against the Prophet.
Nevertheless, Makkah was physically liberated. It came under Islamic administration. And then, after that, the community of Bani Israel of that time that was living in Al-Medina, due to their high treason, no longer could live in Al-Medina. When they were living and coexisting with the others, everything was fine, but when they began to commit high treason and treachery against the Muslims, they lost their right to live in Al-Medina. So, most of them regrouped in Khaybar. Then, they were defeated in Khaybar. After that, they re-joined their others in the Holy Land, Al-Quds and its surroundings. Then, Al-Quds and its surroundings were liberated. All of this was done by ‘Ibaadan lanaa’. It was not done by Sunnis or Shiites. It was not done by Sufis or Salafis. It was not done by certain followers of a certain group. It was done by ‘Ibaadan lanaa’.
And so, Allah says when a second time comes around, meaning when the Israeli power presence in the world, the second time comes around, they are going to be defeated by ‘Ibaadan lanaa’ once again.
So, when these Israeli types were defeated in the Arabian peninsula, both in Holy Land South, and in Holy Land North, along with them, who was also defeated? The Roman Empire, or what some historians would call Byzantium. They were also defeated in the battles of Mu’ta and Tabuk and Al-Quds. So, now we have three categories of power centres that were defeated: the Mushriks of Mecca, the Israelis of the Holy Land, South and North, and the Byzantines in the Holy Land North. They all suffered defeat. Do you think that they went home and hung their uniforms up and gave up? Or was there a desire or even a plan to get even? To get ‘even’ meaning with ‘Ibaadan lanaa’ – these Muslims.
So, now, there was a common purpose between the Arabian mushriks, who were now nominal Muslims, the Umawis who were ruling in Damascus, along with the Byzantines – Heraclias and his empire, along with Bani Israel. They had now become the enemy. However, the ‘Ibaadan lanaa’, those who had defeated them, the Prophet, Imam Ali, Umar ibn Al-Khattab had passed away.
So they put their forces together. They coordinated their policies because when King Muawiyah was ruling and he was losing to his extended cousin, Imam Ali, he sent communication to the ruler of Byzantine, saying, “if you are not going to cease your hostilities against me, then, since I am at war with my cousin, I can easily make up with him, and both of us will face you on the battlefield”.
So, as the years went by, they consolidated their forces. And what happened there was the revenge that these three power centres took against the committed Muslims in what is known as the battle of Karbala. That is how that happened. That is the explanation for that.
The problem is, because of the sectarian bunk, the infestation of sectarianism in the general Muslim mind, financed, by kingdoms and petrodollars, the Sunnis cannot see that Karbala is an extension of the battles that took place in which Banu Israel, Byzantium and the Mushriks aligned. They cannot make that connection.
The Shias cannot see that there was an introduction to Karbala and that these were the battles. Our inability to join these together is the fertile ground of sectarianism. We need to get that out of our minds. We need to stop thinking of this issue within that range and continue to be divided Muslims with issues that are silly [and] become argumentative, disputatious, and hostile. Listen to some of these preachers and speakers, financed by unlimited budgets, that come onto the screen, they never use the word justice. They don’t speak about any issue that has to do with justice, as if those 13 years of the Prophet’s life never existed.
عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: سَمِعْت رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم يَقُولُ:
” بُنِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ: شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لَا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ، وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ، وَحَجِّ الْبَيْتِ، وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ”.
[رَوَاهُ الْبُخَارِيُّ] ، [وَمُسْلِمٌ].
“(The structure of) Islam is built on five (pillars): Testification of ‘La ilaha illallah’ (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), that Muhammad (pbuh) is his slave and Messenger, the establishment of Salat, the payment of Zakat, the pilgrimage to the House of Allah (Ka’bah), and Saum during the month of Ramadan.”
The speakers we have to listen to today, preaching at us, say this is Islam.
بُنِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ
Islam was constructed on five things. Those five things are not Islam. Islam is constructed on them, but they are not Islam, but we have been so brainwashed, we have been so disconnected from reality that our definition of Islam has been drastically reduced into rituals and into some legalities, and those rituals and legalities came 13 years after a prolonged and an extended struggle.
There are a lot of other things that should have been said but they need more time and more space. I am limited in knowledge, as we all are, and Allah (SWT) knows best.
I end with this. If we cannot re-centre our colonised mindsets on the issue of justice, there will be no liberation neither of Holy Land South or North. We need to set our psychologies free, the way Islam has always demanded us.
Imam Muhammad al-Asi is currently working on the first-ever English Tafsir of the Qur’an titled: The Ascendant Qur’an: Realigning Man to the Divine Power Culture. Imam Asi has also published a translation of the Qur’an. Both the tafseer volumes and translation are published by ICIT. Imam is based in Washington D.C.
[i] Because at the time liquor was the main intoxicating substance